Painful periods are often due to Liver Blood Stagnation, but treating it helps many other conditions.
April 21, 2020
This – Liver Blood Stagnation – is a syndrome in Chinese medicine. Liver Blood ‘Stasis’ is another name for it.
It affects lots of people, including many women with irregular or painful periods and/or heavy menses.
It sometimes looks like Liver Qi stagnation, not least because if Liver Qi Stagnates for too long, Qi will stop moving – just as in a traffic jam, if delays last for too long, people get out of their cars and berate one another, so the whole parade grinds to a halt.
We have a wonderfully apposite word for this, quite fitting for this syndrome: a ‘snarl-up‘.
Because Qi moves Blood, when Qi stops Blood stops too. Then you have this syndrome of stagnation or stasis of Liver Blood.
So one syndrome can lead to the other, and to treat it you must also, and nearly always first, treat Liver Qi Stagnation.
However, the symptoms of Liver Blood Stagnation are usually more severe than those of Liver Qi Stagnation.
Symptoms of Liver Blood Stagnation (=Liver Blood Stasis)
Where do you get the symptoms, and what are they like?
Pain location: abdomen, flanks, breasts, side of ribs, groin
Type of pain: fixed, boring, stabbing or distending
Often comes with the sensation of a lump in the throat
Nose bleeds may accompany the syndrome’s symptoms
In women (who may not get ALL of these symptoms, of course):
Dysmenorrhoea – painful before but particularly during periods (though it can occur at other times too)
Haemorrhages or periods which drag on for ages
Blood of menses is dark, purple and often clotted
Breasts swell and are painful, especially during periods
‘Masses’ – becoming ‘firm lumps’ – can be palpated in the abdomen. These masses don’t move around: they are fixed in their location
Mood: depressed, irritable, can be violent
Complexion: dark, dusky
Note that there may be tumours or growths, and masses which are hard and immobile on palpation both in the abdomen and elsewhere.
Liver Blood stagnation symptoms often resemble those of some kinds of endometriosis
Tongue: purple colour, purple distended veins on the underside of the tongue: may be bluish on sides of tongue. Tongue coating, normal or thick
The Key feature is the dark, clotted menstrual blood and the purple colour of the tongue.
How Does Liver Blood Stasis Begin?
To understand Liver blood stagnation, you need to understand what Chinese medicine thinks about the function of the Liver. Read more about this at Liver Functions, but briefly, the Liver is said ‘to store’ the Blood and to keep your Qi moving. The Liver is also said to have a major role in regulating the contents of the lower part of your abdomen, ie inferior to your umbilicus.
Putting those functions together you can see that if Liver Qi stagnates, it won’t be able to store the Blood properly, especially in the lower abdomen, and also there will be difficulties with Qi flow. Read on for the cause of Liver Qi stagnation.
Stagnation of Liver qi over a long period is the cause. In traditional Chinese medicine, Blood moves only because Qi moves it. If there isn’t enough Qi to move it because the Qi is stagnant, then the Blood will stagnate.
Since the cause of Stagnant Liver Qi is nearly always emotional, in particular anger or frustration, it is these emotions, held over a long time that are the root cause of Stagnant Liver Blood.
Other causes of Liver Blood Stasis
That may not be all. An ancillary cause is sometimes that, because of prolonged Qi Stagnation, the whole system has slowed down, and there isn’t enough Qi, and what little there is is stagnating. So sometimes it is necessary to help the body make more Qi, but clearing the Stagnation of Qi comes first.
Having said all that, I have treated some women with Liver Blood Stasis where there was not only an emotional cause, but an inherited tendency (ie the mother and even the grandmothers had it) AND there had been an ectopic pregnancy and various operations. Where there is an inherited tendency one needs to treat the extra-ordinary channels, often particularly chong mo.
Surgeryalmost always causes Blood Stasis which, when added to Qi stagnation, makes Liver Blood stasis or stagnation more likely.
In this case, when treating painful periods, there is more to be done than just ease Liver Qi stagnation, important though that is. One must also adjust what is called Chong Mo, which looks after the way the membranes inside you protect and support your inner organs.
Treatment of Stagnant Liver Blood
The aim first is to disperse any Stagnant Liver Qi so that Liver Qi flows smoothly, then to ‘regulate’ the Blood. Acupuncture is usually very effective for this.
However, because the root cause is emotional, the patient must be helped to recognise where his or her problems come from. If it is from a relationship they may need separate help in addition to acupuncture.
Acupuncture, I have found, is amazingly good at helping Liver Qi Stagnation. If that is helped, even short-term and before longer-term changes have been made – eg in a relationship – then there are often good prospects for Liver Blood stagnation.
If the root of the emotional problem cannot be adjusted, then the likelihood is that Liver Qi will again stagnate, bringing in turn more Liver Blood stasis.
When symptoms of Liver Blood stagnation are far advanced, many people, especially women, will already have resorted to surgery by the time they seek acupuncture. Surgery may remove the cysts and tumours but is unlikely to deal with the emotions at the root, so probably the Blood stasis will recur, possibly elsewhere in the body.
This question of Qi stagnation is of such serious concern that I have written a book about it, see also below.
Other Liver Syndromes
Read about the other main Liver syndromes by clicking on the following links: